Gertie wrote: ↑January 4th, 2022, 3:06 pm
Looking back I don't see how my arguments can move you as long as you're welded to the package of postulates you've arrived at, and I don't agree that they have to follow from the foundation which we do agree on. And while individual idiosyncrasies should be allowed for, there are morally significant differences between some needs/desires than others, even if they aren't objectively quantifiable. And imo it's better to imperfectly wrestle with the messiness, than create tidy theoretical lines.
Only the Equal Agency postulate follows from the the foundation ("Fundamental Principle"), because the latter aims to advance the welfare of all agents.
The others are free-standing and independently verifiable, logically or empirically. Which one(s) would you reject or question? Here are the ones I mentioned:
* Equal Agency postulate: All agents in the moral field have equal moral standing, which means that all are equally subject to whatever duties and constraints the theory generates, and the well-being of each has equal weight. There are no preferred classes or agents.
* Neutrality Postulate (corrollary of Equal Agency Postulate): The theory is neutral with respect to agent interests, and the interests of all agents have equal weight (since the well-being of an agent consists in satisfaction of his interests
* Relativity postulate: What counts as a "good" or an "evil," and the values (positive or negative) thereof, are subjective and relative to agents.
* Postulate of Individuality: What are counted as "goods" and "evils" differs from agent to agent.
Again, which would you challenge or question? Note that if you accept the Equal Agency, Relativity, and Individuality postulates, you're logically forced to accept the Neutrality postulate (which is why it's a corrollary).
So if we take homelessness, nearly everybody would feel that having a home is more important to their welfare and ability to flourish, than being able to have their favourite flavour of ice cream, as an obvious comparison.
That is probably true for most people, but is it necessarily true for everyone? Anyone who has actually worked with the homeless would tell you that some of them live on the streets by choice, refuse shelter accomodations, and if offered a choice between an apartment and an ice cream cone --- or a dose of their drug of choice --- would take the drug, and even the ice cream.
But how important a given good is to a given agent doesn't help us with the moral question, which is, May Alfie be forced to sacrifice something he deems a good, and is thus a contributor to his
welfare, in order to provide Bruno with something Bruno deems a good? Given that there is no objective measure of value per which goods defined by different people can be compared, how is that forcing to be justified?
Nobody feels a moral obligation to ensure everybody is able to have their fave ice cream based on welfare and flourishing, and nearly everybody feels there is a moral obligation to to sacrifice their shoes to save a drowning child.
That is probably true too. But remember the issue is not how people feel, or even whether there is some (rationally defensible) moral obligation to save the drowning child (as I think there is), but whether one agent may force
another agent to do so.
Being homeless will likely affect your physical and mental health, your ability to find and maintain a decent income, may lead to crime, addiction, sex work, and being preyed upon by criminals. Having your kids taken into care, and/or your kids' life chances being harmed. This seems like an obvious case for moral obligation to me.
And if we're serious about it, leaving it to ad hoc acts of charity/generosity is insufficient, we know that.
Why do you suppose it is insufficient? Can we assume that it is because, for many people, the well-being of their own kids outweighs, in their own value hierarchies, the welfare of strangers? That it may be more important to them to continue their kid's piano lessons than to donate that amount to a charity which will provide a meal and a cot for a homeless addict? And possibly also because they do not consider many of the homeless to be innocent victims, but victims of their own poor choices and bad habits? If that is the case, does it not have a bearing on one's moral obligations to them?
So the only objection I see to using taxes, is some in principle objection to ever being forcibly obliged to sacrifice to help another. But if our foundation is welfare based, my sacrifice of a bit more in taxes has a minimal effect on my welfare, and a radical effect on homeless people.
Not everyone forced to pay that tax would consider its impact "minimal." The trouble with imposing taxes to "solve" these problems is that they are indiscriminate, taking no account either of the highly variable and individualized burdens they impose on different taxpayers, or on the personal circumstances and culpabilities of the designated beneficiaries. And, of course, because they force the decisions of a few upon the many, thereby denying the latter the prerogative of making those evaluations and reaching those judgments for themselves, egregiously violate the Equal Agency postulate.